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synergies. you had a lot of tensions, even on the democratic side at that time between michigan and iowa and new hampshire, south carolina, florida, ohio, all competing to be in that front tier of states. meanwhile, a lot of the western states were sitting there going, wait a minute. why should we be relegated to second or third tier. so to alleviate a lot of those tensions, we went to the current system based on proportionality. we moved nevada. which was a tip of the hat to the west. to go in the front line just like they do on the democratic side. so i wanted some parallelism there with the democrats. and tim kaine and i talked about that. and there were some things we did that the democrats liked that they took on when they rewrote their rules. so we'll see what the convention says in august about what aspects of this they want to keep. otherwise, they'll reverse back to the 2008 rules. >> let's go to bob licter and the students at george mason
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university. bob? >> okay. thank you. i actually have a question just to follow up for mr. steele and then i'd like to go to my students immediately after that. this is an election in which you've got several viable candidates, much later than you often do, and, obviously, part of that was intentional in the sense that you set the rules up to give more voters and more of the base more states a chance. but how much of the present situation results from these rules and how much results from, say, the many debates that brought several candidates to light very early for the public and the super pacs which allow a candidate in a slough to have the money to keep going longer. >> how much time do you? >> you hit a lot there. let me take it as quickly as i can so that we can get to -- >> let's start with the debates. there have been more than 20. >> that's fine. we had nothing to do with the debates. they are negotiated with each of the states and the various campaigns and that the networks as to whether or not they want
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to have and participate in that debate. as we just saw the candidates decided not to participate in the cnn debate which they wanted to have this week. so that was canceled. so that's driven separate and apart from what we were doing at the rnc, although, as chairman, i did begin to have near the end of my term, conversations with fox and msnbc about setting up a schedule where i thought the rnc should declare, you know, six or seven debates that are of party importance. in other words, these will be sanctioned by and driven by the republican national committee. and you can do anything else you want on your own but these are the ones we wanted the base to focus on. that didn't work out, obviously, because i didn't complete the job. i got out. i was let go. the new chairman and they went in a different direction. so the debate, that's on them. with respect to the money, the 527s, i saw this writing on the wall at the beginning of my tenure when i got into the rnc
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and saw our major donors which were all largely bush donors. they were there largely since bush 41. a lot of them had been hit, you know, by the recession and the depression, you know, economic depression. and so their bank accounts were smaller. they weren't giving to party organizations which they typically don't do unless they have the white house or something to give to. so we had to come up with a different structure to raise those monies. so we went out and generated a million new donors and got a lot of grassroots activism that way. the 527s have created their own enti entity. my concern is the lack of disclosure. the lack of ability to let the donors -- the people know who their donors are so campaigns can either want to associate with those donors or not. i think congress will fix that after this cycle. particularly after hearing the crew from the american people. and the process itself, what
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you've seen so far has nothing to do with the crazy rhetoric that you hear coming out of the mouths of candidates. quite frankly. i mean, how long the primary process goes on has nothing to do with your standing in front of a camera at this moment and saying, you know, whatever comes out of your mouth that then makes news. for good or bad. so that's a discipline issue. that's a messaging issue that the candidates and their campaigns have to deal with. put it this way. if romney had been selected the nominee back in february or early february or mid-february, would that have precluded his -- the words leaving his mouth about, well, you know, i really don't care for the poor. the very poor. what does that have to do with how long the process is? so i think a lot of campaigns want to jump on the process because their candidates don't know how to keep their mouth shut about -- without saying something that causes them angst. you can't blame the process for
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that. that is -- that's more of an ability to, again, stay on the message. the economic message. again, that would have nothing to do with rick santorum's fakeoff on social issues and nor would it have anything to do with the rush limbaugh controversy because i would submit to you that if romney were the nomny, he'd be in a much tougher spot given what rush limbaugh just said with the cameras coming to him every day. now the cameras can at least go to three or four different other people and get a sound bite from them on this subject and other republican leaders as opposed to folk aungs that nominee. >> let's stay with bob lichter and bob mason university. >> yes, a question from nicole taylor on what the eventual nominee does about all of this. >> my question is, what do you think the republican presidential nominee will have to do to bring together the party and support of one candidate considering the party support is spread across several candidates right now. >> that's a very good question. and it really comes down to that
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candidate's ability to strike a passionate chord within the base. to find that healing moment if you will where you can bring all the various ends together and you can have an honest conversation about what the core objective is. and the core objective for the gop nominee is to defeat barack obama this november. it also means in doing that, bringing together various coalitions of interest that we don't necessarily have access to at all times in the gop. in other words, independents. women. african-americans, hispanics. there's a whole collection of americans out there that this process in my estimation has alienated. and so now we've got to find a way, that nominee has to find a way to heal within and outside the party in order to be an effective challenger to the president come november. >> one of those moments came after the michigan primary state that mitt romney essentially said he had to win.
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he won by three percentage points. so let's take you back to primary night with governor romney followed by senator rick santorum. >> a week ago it was just a week ago, the pundits and the pollsters, they were ready to count us out. but across michigan and arizona, i kept on meeting moms and dads and students and grandparents and they were concerned about what's happening to this great country of ours. and i was confident we could come together today and take a giant step toward a brighter future. so tonight, their efforts have brought our cause a great victory, and we celebrate with people across these states. thank you. now tonight is also particularly special for me because this is the place where i was born. this is the place where i was raised. my mom and dad lived many years here and loved this great state. and i know that michiganders in this room, we consider you
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family. thanks so much for your help. and in this room are the people who knocked on the doors and made the calls and went to the polls and it made an enormous difference. we didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough and that's all that counts. >> a month ago, they didn't know who we are, but they do now. what an absolutely great night. i am so thankful. so thankful to so many people here tonight. first and foremost, i just have to say to the people of michigan, you know, we came into the backyard of one of my opponents in a race that everyone said, well, just ignore. you have really no chance here. and the people of michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates and all i have to say is, i love you back. thank you. >> michael steele, these have become pivot points for the candidates. we saw that with rick santorum. we saw it with mitt romney. >> let me ask you a question.
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i'd love to get the students' feedback on this. how did you feel in listening to those two sound bites. which one actually made you move toward that candidate if not physically, at least a little bit emotionally? and that's the rub right there for mitt romney. who gave, i thought, a very -- what's the word. sort of clean. it was like going to the doctor's office. it was everything -- it was sanitized. rick santorum was like you could -- that moment when he says i love you back. you could almost feel, thank you. yeah, i love you, too, man. it was a very different kind of connection. and that's been the undertone that's been driving a lot of the angst for the base is that i'll go fight for you, but i really want to go fight for you. i just don't want to fight for you because you have the moniker of gop nominee on your head. and so the broader public picks up on these things as well. and that feeds into the polls you see.
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it feeds into the overall narrative that the press writes about, about how these two men connect. when you talk about trees and loving the trees, you got to connect it to something. you don't just say i love the trees here because they are the right height. that's like saying i love the buildings in my hometown of washington, d.c., because they are the right height. really? that's not -- that's not what people are looking. they want to see your connection to michigan. if you grew up there, tell me a story. give me an anecdote from your life that makes me see some side of you that i otherwise wouldn't see. >> let me go to julie whitney who can respond to michael steele's point from mitt romney, newt gingrich and then we'll take your question. julia? >> well, i have been a romney fan. i'm from new hampshire. so i followed him along the way. and i know he does seem a little sterilized and kind of -- i don't know, just kind of -- like you said you go to a doctor's office and he's just too clean, i guess. but --
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>> why do you like mitt romney, though, julia? what's motivating you? >> definitely his business experience and he knows the private sector. he knows what he's doing in that aspect. and time and time again, our voters have said the economy is the biggest issue. and i don't think romney has really gotten pushed down by all the social issues as much as like santorum because that's what he's kind of going for, the socially right conservatives. so i think that romney is kind of focusing more on the economy. that definitely will help propel him forward. >> that's a very good point. and i think that's one of the things that mitt romney has counted on in his campaign is that attitude, if you will, about his campaign is, yeah, the guy is a little sterile and then, i don't necessarily think i'd go out and want to have a beer with him, but he brings his business experience, he brings that acumen to the table that i think the country needs. and i think it's going to be relevant and important. and that's great.
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but as you probably know and as i think all of us can appreciate, this campaign against someone like barack obama is going to require a little bit more than that level of acumen, business acumen. it's going to require a translation. you are asking the american people to fire an incumbent president who has, despite what his job approval is, has a personal approval rating closer to 60%. so that's a very tall order. and it's something that i think a lot of gop professionals completely underestimate in calculating what we need to do to win this fall. you have got to bring that job approval and that personal approval to a point where the american people -- this guy, not only am i not liking his policies but i'm not feeling him anymore. and that hasn't happened yet. and so romney has a chance to do that in this process. as does a rick santorum and newt gingrich. and coming through this, one of them has got to be able to carry that going forward.
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it's not just enough to have that acumen, that experience going into this fall campaign. >> let me pick up on that point and share with you the point that bob lichter made about super pacs. priority usa is the obama super pac now on the air with this ad taking aim at mitt romney. >> his message was clear. >> let detroit go bankrupt. >> mitt romney. there's no question he made a fortune from business he's helped destroy. romney pocketed huge fees shortly before companies collapsed. >> bankrupt, bankrupt, bankrupt. >> even when the businesses failed, romney came out ahead. are those the values we want in an american president? >> bankrupt, bankrupt, bankrupt. >> priorities usa is responsible for the content of this advertising. >> michael steele, the obama campaign has been taking aim at mitt romney since last year. >> yeah, from the very beginning. their calculations, regardless of the roller coaster within the gop nominating process, their
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calculation has been that the president will be up against mitt romney come the fall. and so they have done, i think, very effectively the job of getting themselves inserted into the narrative of the gop primary process which is what you want to do if you are an incumbent. and certainly have that ability to shape people's perception of what you are saying and doing at the time you are saying and doing it. so that by the time you get to the general when it's man o-e-mano. people have formed an opinion about you that is more to the liking that i've crafted as opposed to what you've done over the past seven, eight, nine months, through the primary process. that's what romney will be up against in the fall. not just the stuff gingrich and santorum has thrown at him that's going to be played back in sound bites and in commercials, but more importantly, the stuff that the president's team has already done to insert themselves. very effective campaigning. very effective ads.
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and we'll see how the romney organization and its 527 responds going forward. >> jessica larkin. >> hi, mr. steele. >> hey. >> i'm wondering, you mention that the candidates in this, you know, presidential race, that they might -- the ones that don't have romney's money, all they do need say message that resonates. i'm wondering if the fast pace of super tuesday, are these candidates, you know, at a disadvantage because they have limited time and money? >> you guys are very perceptive here because that's a very good question. simply because the thing about super tuesday is ten states at one time whereas up until now it's just been one state. concentrate, go in. you saw what rick santorum did in iowa. visiting all 99, you know, caucuses -- caucus sites and counties. so this is different. so where you are going to run into a little bit of a problem
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and you have seen this strategic decision-making already. newt gingrich. i'm going to hunker down in georgia. and i'm going to play for georgia because i've kind of put myself out here and say, you got to win your home state. and the polls there have narrowed. he's got to spend his time there. santorum had the luxury of, you know, being able to flip out of michigan into washington, to play there just to make it interesting. but then come back through georgia and his goal is ohio. romney is the only one who has the advantage to really play in all the states. but here's the difference. the base is formed and is forming opinions about these vds and who they like or don't like. so the tv ads and the commercials and all those things, yeah, they do have some resonance, but it really is going to boil down to whether or not the base feels a desire to go out and pull the lever for one or the other of the vds that they support. and as we've seen in this primary process so far, the
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turnout levels have been lower than 2008 in the states have gone so far. the question for super tuesday is do we see that trend line reverse. and is that the result of romney's money and his organization pushing out the vote? is that the result of passionate conservatives going out to stake their claim for ron paul or one of the other guys? and that's something we're going to look for in the exit polling tomorrow night to see exactly where the trend lines are here. but it does present a particular challenge for you if you don't have money. i said the process designed so that you don't necessarily have to have a lot of cash, organization, but it helps. so it's always good to err on the side of more cash and more organization because at some point you'll come up to a day where you have to compete in ten states at one time and that day is tomorrow. and it will be interesting to see if the strategic decisions that each campaign has made plays well for them. >> since 1968, no single
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reporter has spent more time on the campaign trail writing about every nuance in american politics than dan balz who is joining us from "the washington post" newsroom. dan, as always, thanks for being with us. >> thank you steve. happy to be here. >> we should point out this is a two-way street. if you have any questions for michael steele, feel free to jump in. >> uh-oh. >> let me begin with a simple point. you've been writing about tomorrow being a pivot point in this election. how so? >> well, i think that the importance of super tuesday this year is that we will really get for the first time an indication of, a, how long this fight actually may go on. we know it's going to go on for some time, but the question is, how long. and the second is, will there be any candidate who has been challenging governor romney who comes out of super tuesday with a realistic chance of winning the nomination. we've had ups and downs. we've had different people rising and falling.
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romney has been kind of the steady competitor, the person to beat. but after tomorrow we're going to have a better sense of the totality of this race and the degree to which governor romney has an advantage over the rest of the field. >> dan, we've been touching on a number of issues with the students and including, you know, the money, the organization. the infrastructure. what is the worst possible case for, you know, tomorrow night, for someone like a mitt romney. can he get by with maybe, you know, winning barely or not winning, for example, a tennessee? what happens if he loses ohio? how do you and folks in the national press corps see this story line unfolding, particularly given that newt and santorum and ron paul have made it clear they don't plan to go
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anywhere. does this just -- one more hurdle for mitt, or is there some real end game here for him? >> well, you know, this has been such a slog for him, although i think that the boston team that is running this campaign concluded a long time ago that because of a variety of factors, this was likely to be a longer race than i think many people in the media or other people who follow these things might have anticipated. we're all used to dealing with campaigns in which momentum really takes over and drives people to the sidelines. but you don't have that phenomenon this year. so i think there's two ways that people will look at tomorrow night. the way that the romney campaign clearly wants everybody to look at it is as a battle for delegates. they are almost certainly going to win the battle for delegates. and the reason for that is that, first of all, in virginia, his only competitor on the ballot is ron paul. and given the rules of the game, the rules of the road in virginia, mitt romney could win
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all of the delegates in virginia tomorrow night. that gives him a big leg up over santorum or gingrich starting out there. ohio is, obviously, another important prize. it's got 66 delegates at stake. santorum has competed very, very well there. it's a dead heat going into the polling places tomorrow. but senator santorum has not filed a full slate of delegates in that state. the romney campaign had a conference call on saturday in which they said he is 18 short of the 66 full slate of delegates. so that means even if he were to win the state in the popular vote, mitt romney almost certainly will win a majority of the delegates. as you go through tomorrow night, it's pretty likely that governor romney is going to expand his lead in delegates. and i think that what you will be hearing from them is what we heard from the obama campaign when they were up against hillary clinton in 2008 which is focus on the delegates. this is a battle for delegates,
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and we are in a better position than anybody else to win the delegate race. but having said that, i think the other reality is that if governor romney loses another big battleground state. if we were to lose ohio tomorrow night to rick santorum, it gives santorum a shot in the arm. it creates another kind of psychological blow for governor romney that he can't win an important swing state. put aside the question of whether people who lose a state in a primary can't come back and win it because we saw president obama do that in a punch of states in 2008. but governor romney is at that point where if he can -- if he can do what i think a lot of people anticipate he might be able to do, then he can come out of there with a pretty good night. but if he falls short in ohio, if he doesn't look very strong in a place like tennessee if he doesn't pick up some reasonable number of delegates in georgia, there will be renewed tension to the questions about what's wrong
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with mitt romney. so this is going to be a very interesting post-super tuesday or super tuesday evening as the various campaigns try to spin it in the direction that they want. >> let me turn to bob lichter at george mason university and then weave in a couple of student questions. bob, it's all yours. >> great. actually, i have a student who i think would love to put the spotlight on you. instead of saying what might happen, see if she can pull some predictions. second question about what -- go ahead. just ask. >> let me jump in. why don't you get your question lined up and go to ariel at the washington center. >> hi. this is a question more directed towards mr. steele. so many republican voters are not convinced that romney is a conservative, especially that he authored romney care. so do you feel if there are not
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enough delegates won during the primaries it could entd up in a brokered convention and gingrich or santorum could actually win the nomination? >> probably not likely. less brokered and more contested. you know, as dan just very well laid out, the battle lines are drawn in such a way that, yeah, i win the popular vote but i'm still getting delegates or lose the popular vote but i get even more delegates. it's all about the delegate count. and the romney campaign is very right about that. that is the important underlying narrative. you need to get to the 1100-plus delegates you need to secure the nomination. but keep in mind because of the proportional voting, as i said, that's going to take place tomorrow night. only two states out of the ten will be winner take all. everybody is going to get something. whether it's 15 delegates, 40 delegates, whatever it happens to be, everyone is going to walk away with something. that's something they'll put in their pocket and they can carry with them in to tampa this fall.
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that again does not necessarily argue well for this process ending next week or the week after that. but rather going right through the california primary. and whatever i have, if i'm romney or rick santorum or newt gingrich, going into the convention allows me to make a case for some role, something in the platform, a speech, whatever it is. i'm going to be looking for to negotiate with. the real thing for someone like a rick santorum and newt gingrich is to keep romney. they don't care so much he's going to amass delegates. he'll pick up 46 tomorrow just out of virginia. they're not worried about that part of it. the goal is to keep him away from the 1144, whatever the number is. so that when he gets to the convention, he has to turn to one of them to get that magic number. and that's the contested part of this that's going to be fun to see if it actually comes to
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fruition. the brokered convention notion is they get so jammed up in tampa where the party just doesn't become fun anymore and they are looking for someone from the outside to come in. christie or someone like that to sort of come in on their white horse and sort of with the knight shining, i'm here to save the day. that's not happening. >> let me follow up on ariel's point and ask you a little history. the last time the republicans were faced with a potential of a convention that was divided was '76 with gerald ford and ronald reagan. walter mondale sgog the convention with not quite enough delegates. some negotiations had to take place with gary hart before he secured the nomination. what are the lessons from '76 for the republicans and '84 for the democrats? >> win it as quickly as you can, steve. it's just -- there's no mystery to what governor romney wants to
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do. but this is with a nod to chairman steele, this is the house that chairman steele built when he was chairman of the party. and it is a new house that the republicans are dealing with for the first time. the issue of proportionality. certainly changes the way nomination battles play out. now democrats have long had proportionality. but as we saw in 2004, john kerry made a very early and significant run. had a lot of momentum and basically everybody else fell by the way side. in part because their money dried up. the difference you have this time is even a candidate who is losing isn't necessarily forced to the sidelines because of the role of the super pacs. they have the capacity, one person has the capacity, one rich person has the capacity to keep a campaign alive for a candidate who is otherwise losing and having difficulty perhaps raising money. one of the things we'll see
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after tomorrow night is which of the rives to governor romney still has the capacity to raise money for his own campaign and which of the super pacs backing those candidates has the wherewithal and the commitment to keep funding ads attacking governor romney or supporting their candidate. so there are enough new wrinkles in this that as chairman steele says it is likely to go on for a long time. but i think there's another factor that we have to look at. and we have begun to see a little bit of sign of that. and i'd wonder, depending on what happens tomorrow night, whether we'll see more of that. there's no question the longer this has gone on, the more it has hurt the republican party and has hurt governor romney. and at some point, the question is, do people who are elected officials begin to try to do things to shorten this race or to suggest that the people chasing governor romney change their tone in some way, reduce the negative attacks, bring --
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begin to unify the party? now that is asking a lot for a newt gingrich or rick santorum who are fighting their hearts out and are looking for ways to survive. so -- but we're -- that's again why we're at a potential pivot point. but we've got ten states voting tomorrow night and a lot of different possible outcomes. >> remember, dan -- as dan just noted, the first punch was thrown by the mitt romney campaign in iowa going into iowa. because they needed to figure out a way to stop newt and for a week, you know, $6 million later, they pounded the guy to the point where he is where he is right now. you couple that with the ads that ron paul ran against santorum and specifically newt gingrich. so while you had some candidates preaching reagan's 11th commandmenhering to it. that poison has

March 6, 2012 12:00pm-12:30pm EST

TOPIC FREQUENCY Rick Santorum 10, Newt Gingrich 7, Michigan 7, Washington 4, Iowa 4, Virginia 4, Georgia 4, Michael Steele 4, Ron Paul 4, Us 3, Mr. Steele 3, Obama 3, Bob Lichter 3, Ohio 3, Dan 3, Mitt Romney 3, Steele 3, Gingrich 2, New Hampshire 2, George Mason 2
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